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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, November 24, 2006

George W. and that Other President from Texas

Joseph Sobran's
Washington Watch

Hope Springs Eternal

As the off-year elections close in on us, die-hard
Republicans cling to the belief -- or hope -- that the
polls portending disaster for them are mere figments of
the liberal media. So, presumably, are all the ghastly
reports from Iraq. You know, "They never report the
positive developments," such as the rise of a vibrant
democracy, the popularity of the American occupation, and
similar triumphs.

Well, we can all agree that =somebody= is indulging
in wishful thinking. And the Bush administration is
sufficiently in touch with reality to announce that it is
dropping the slogan "Stay the course" -- indeed, denying
that it has ever used these words. I guess my old memory
is deceiving me again. My impression is that the
president has used them rather insistently, but I won't
insist on the point.

Let us also tactfully forget the Bush version of the
Domino Theory: that after the overthrow of Saddam
Hussein, democracy would spread contagiously across the
Mideast and beyond, in a "global democratic revolution."
He spoke of abolishing tyranny itself -- everywhere. Two
of his neoconservative supporters, Richard Perle and
David Frum, foresaw nothing less than "an end to evil."

Heady talk. With all due respect to this
administration's foreign policy wizardry, this was a bit
much. Some of us gloomier types, not all of us liberals,
suspected that evil might be sticking around awhile
longer. After all, it has quite a track record, and has
successfully resisted earlier attempts to eradicate it.

Many now compare Bush to Lyndon Johnson, who was
also ruined when he presided over a misconceived war. But
there is this difference: Johnson inherited his war from
John Kennedy. Vietnam wasn't his idea. But the Iraq war
has been Bush's project, from conception to execution.

The Anglican bishop Richard Whately, teacher and
mentor of John Henry Newman, once wrote, "He who is
unaware of his ignorance will be only misled by his
knowledge." Golden words! Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld was making the same point, in a way, when he
distinguished between "the known unknowns" and "the
unknown unknowns."

This is the Information Age, and it is fatally easy
to forget that no matter how many data you collect, no
matter how many experts you consult, there remains an
intractable area of mystery and unpredictability.
Conservatives, once scornful of social engineering and
nation-building, used to warn of the unintended
consequences of government action. The lesson applies to
war as well as ambitious domestic programs.

But Rumsfeld apparently forgot this, and the unknown
unknowns of making war are proving to be the
administration's downfall. If it still wants to insist
that the Iraq war is going well, it seems not to be
persuading many voters. The test is simple. Many people
who used to believe in the war have ceased to believe in
it; can you name any who used to be pessimistic about it
who have lately become optimistic? All the movement has
been in one direction.

This is reflected in the way Republicans seeking
reelection are shying away from the war and distancing
themselves from Bush. They sense what is coming in
November: not only a reversal of their gains in 1994, but
maybe the worst debacle they have faced since 1932. So
much for Karl Rove's dream of making the War on Terror
the foundation of lasting Republican dominance.

If there is any consolation or silver lining, it is
that this time the Democrats have little positive to
offer. Their only real strength is that they are not the
Republicans. They have no Franklin Roosevelt to rally the
masses, only Illinois's bland and inoffensive young
Barack Obama, who may seek the presidency during his
first term in the Senate -- hardly the makings of a

Kuo's Complaint

One symptom of the administration's troubles is the
disaffection of its base, the religious right of
Protestant evangelicals. A powerful blow has been
delivered by David Kuo, a disillusioned former official
of Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives who has
written a book about his disappointment with Bush's

Kuo speaks well of Bush himself, but charges the
Republicans with cynical and contemptuous deception of
the evangelicals. Somehow the money for those
"faith-based initiatives" was never forthcoming. The
word "seduction" tells us eloquently how these people
feel they have been used. Kuo's book is less important
in itself (in either sales or readership) than as an
indication of evangelical sentiment, and it is receiving
a lot of media attention.

Of course one has limited pity for anyone who
expects to receive money from the government, especially
when it comes by means of unconstitutional programs. But
let's not forget that Kuo and his allies have done their
own part to make conservatism synonymous with big
government. Bush couldn't have done it alone.

For the last century, expanding the federal
government, especially the executive branch, has been
chiefly a project of Democratic presidents: Woodrow
Wilson, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, and Johnson. No
longer. Bush has been a match for any of them. Yet he has
also abstained from using the chief presidential power to
check federal growth: the veto.

Now, like his father, Bush has left his conservative
base feeling betrayed. This is most definitely not what
they bargained for when they supported him.

Will v. Aquinas

"Not since the medieval church baptized, as it were,
Aristotle as some sort of early -- very early -- church
father has there been such an intellectual hijacking as
audacious as the attempt to present America's principal
founders as devout Christians." Thus George Will in THE
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Leave it to lofty George to
take a cheap shot at both the Catholic Church and
St. Thomas Aquinas in the same breath.

Well, as I understand it, the Church neither
"baptized" the Philosopher nor claimed him as a "Church
father." Some Catholic theologians, most notably Aquinas,
found his philosophy illuminating, as earlier theologians
(St. Augustine, for example) had long found Plato's and
others' philosophies -- a step that was controversial
enough, since the archbishop of Paris ordered Aquinas's
writings burned.

At any rate, it's a little absurd to call such
drawing on pre-Christian thought "intellectual
hijacking," as if it were a form of plagiarism or
otherwise unethical, as Will suggests. Nobody was so
"audacious" as to pretend that Aristotle was a Christian;
and of course all serious thinkers have debts to their
predecessors. If he hadn't been so intent on attempting a
clever sneer, Will might have realized this.

+ + +

"Lincoln has been deified as surely as any Roman
emperor." REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME -- a new selection
of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian -- will
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Read this column on-line at
Hope Springs Eternal.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Mayflower Compact

Apparently, these folks had never heard of the "separation of church and state"!

November 11, 1620

"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&.

"Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

"In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Secret Santa Visits Mississippi's Capital City

This is Ruth Ingram's article, "Rags-to-riches 'Secret Santa' sharing wealth," which appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on December 21, 1998.

Miss. native returns, in holiday disguise, to help downtrodden

Dozens of needy Jackson residents today will receive unexpected holiday good wishes-- and a crisp new $100 bill pressed into their palms by an anonymous benefactor who calls himself "Secret Santa."

The Kansas City-area [Lee's Summit] resident and north Mississippi [Calhoun County]native, who keeps his identification secret as he gives cash to those most in need, is repaying a decades-old debt with his generosity.

He's got money enough to travel the nation, putting thousands of dollars into the hands of sometimes desperate and always downtrodden folks who end up at pawn shops, in parking lots of rickety laundromats, or doorways of charity thrift shops.

27 years ago, that could have been him. In 1971, he was homeless in Houston, Mississippi.

"I was living in my car, and the company I worked for went out of business without telling me," he said. "I had no money, no place to go, and no way to get there.

"One morning when I hadn't had anything to eat for a day and a half, I got really hungry and went to a small diner [the Dixie Diner] not far off the square in Houston. I ordered a huge breakfast with all the trimmings, knowing I had no way to pay for it, and I gave it the old 'I must have lost my wallet' trick.

"The guy who was both cook and waiter [as well as owner] came out from behind the counter and reached down underneath where I was sitting. He brought up a $20 bill and said, 'You must have dropped this.' I thought, 'Thank you, Lord,' and my second thought was that I'd better get out of there before the person who dropped the money realized it."

He paid his bill, walked out and broke into a dead run for his car. "I had enough gas to get out of town," he said.

But as he drove down the road, he said, he realized that no one had dropped a $20 bill. "That man knew I was in trouble, and he helped me in a way that allowed me to keep my dignity. At that point, I made the Good Lord a promise."

Fast-forward to the present.

The man who ended up in the Kansas City area not long after making tracks out of Houston calls himself "Secret Santa." He made it big in cable television and other business ventures after that. He's a local celebrity of sorts in the Kansas City area, and his annual benevolence has been chronicled in the Kansas City Star, which also has dubbed him "Santa Cash, the Human Automatic Teller Machine."

His anonymity, he says, "is very important to me."

He's appeared in disguise as a guest on the Oprah show, and in fact wears disguises-- sometimes a Santa suit-- when he makes his rounds as "Secret Santa" in the suburbs of Kansas City and other locales he chooses.

This Christmas, he selected his home state for the first time in almost two decades of "Secret Santa" travels.

"I grew up real poor in Mississippi," he said. He still has family here and plenty of friends.

He and his family "are doing very, very well now," he said. "Each year, I give away cash money of about $50,000."

And he's keeping his promise of 1971.

"I go to laundromats. I go to pawn shops. I go into thrift store parking lots and find people with the hoods of their cars up, people in great need," he said.

Today, he'll probably leave in his wake a trail of tears and whoops of joy.

"It will be a day," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "of great fun."

Click here for more about Secret Santa.

More of Secret Santa's Story

Illness unmasks generous ‘Secret Santa’
Missouri exec gives money to needy, reveals ID to pass mission to others
The Associated Press | November 16, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The answer to one of the happiest mysteries in the Kansas City area is being revealed this year.

A man who has given away millions of dollars and become known as Secret Santa for handing out Christmas cash to the needy is allowing his name to be publicized after 26 years.

But the reason for the revelation is an unhappy one. Secret Santa has cancer. He wants to start speaking to community groups about his belief in random acts of kindness, but he can't do that without telling people who he is.

The man who has spread cheer for 26 years is Larry Stewart, 58, of Lee's Summit, who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

Stewart told The Kansas City Star that he was the man who would walk up to complete strangers, hand them $100 bills, wish them "Merry Christmas" and walk away, leaving astonished and grateful people in his wake. He handed out money throughout the year, but he said it was the Christmas giving that gave him the most joy.

Now, he wants to inspire others to do the same. He said he thinks that people should know that he was born poor, was briefly homeless, dropped out of college, has been fired from jobs, and once even considered robbery.

But he said every time he hit a low point in his life, someone gave him money, food and hope, and that's why he has devoted his life to returning the favors.

Stewart grew up in Bruce, Mississippi [in Calhoun County] and was reared by his elderly grandparents, who survived on $33 a month and welfare staples. They heated water on the stove for baths and used an outhouse.

After he left home and college, he found himself out of work in 1971. After sleeping in his car for eight nights and not eating for two days, Stewart went to the Dixie Diner in Houston, Mississippi and ordered breakfast. When the bill came, he acted as if he'd lost his wallet.

The diner owner came to him.

"You must have dropped this," the owner said, slipping a $20 bill into the young man's hand.

He paid, pushed his car to the gas station, and left town. But he vowed to remember the stranger's kindness, and to help others when he could.

He arrived in Kansas City because he had a cousin here. He got married and started his own company with money from his father-in-law.

But the company failed in 1977 and he couldn't pay the bills. It was the lowest point in his life.

"I was a failure in business. I was a failure as a husband. I was a failure as a father," he remembers thinking.

He got into his car with a handgun and thought about robbing a store. But he stopped and went home — and got a call from his brother-in-law, offering him money to tide him over.

After being fired from two jobs on two successive Christmases, Stewart stopped at a drive-in. Although he had little money himself, Stewart gave a cold and miserable carhop the change from a $20, much to her delight.

That's when Stewart's mission to secretly give away money at the holidays began.

Eventually, Stewart became a success and started Network Communications. The firm used independent sales agents to enroll customers for Sprint long-distance service.

In 1996, an arbitration panel ordered Sprint to pay Network and its sales agents $60.9 million in commissions it owed. Stewart got $5.2 million.

The poor boy from Mississippi now had a family, lived in a nice house and drove nice cars.

So, he started giving away more money, to dozens of causes. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The Salvation Army. The National Paralysis Foundation. The ALS Foundation. He supports the Metropolitan Crime Commission's Surviving Spouse and Family Endowment program.

And, all along, he gave away money to needy strangers.

But Christmas was special. He'd distribute thousands of dollars during visits to coin laundries, thrift stores, barbershops and diners.

People shouted with joy, cried, praised the Lord, and thanked Stewart repeatedly.

But Secret Santa moved on quickly to avoid attention.

He did sometimes invite newspaper and TV reporters along, if they promised not to reveal his identity. It was reporters who dubbed him "Secret Santa."

In 1989, after some people chased his car when they saw the cash he carried, he decided he needed protection. He called Jackson County Sheriff's Capt. Tom Phillips.

"I thought, 'OK, this guy's nuts,'" recalls Phillips, now the Jackson County sheriff. "But at the end of the day, I was in tears — literally — just seeing what he did to people."

Eventually, Secret Santa took his sleigh ride to other places.

In 2001, after the terrorist attacks, he went to New York. The New York cop who accompanied him said he'd never forget the experience.

In 2002, Secret Santa was in Washington, D.C., victimized by the serial snipers. In 2003, it was San Diego neighborhoods devastated by wildfires. And in 2004, he was in Florida, helping thousands left homeless by three hurricanes.

Last Christmas, Secret Santa went back to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast.

He stopped in Houston, Mississippi, where the diner owner had helped him so many years ago. On a previous visit he had surprised the owner, Ted Horn, with $10,000. This time, they stamped $100 bills with the name "Ted Horn," and gave Horn money to distribute. And Horn took money from his own bank account to give away, too.

Stewart has enlisted "elves" for years — George Brett, the late Buck O'Neil, Dick Butkus. He's already inspired copycats.

Four other Secret Santas plan to distribute a total of $70,000 of their own cash this year.

And Secret Santa plans to give away $100,000 this year. Since he started, he estimates he's given out more than $1.3 million in Christmas cash.

But this will likely be the last Christmas for Stewart's tradition. In April, doctors told Stewart that he had cancer of the esophagus. It had spread to his liver. He needed treatment, fast.

With help from Brett, he got into a clinical trial at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Doctors tell him the tumors have shrunk, but they can't say whether the cancer is in remission.

"I pray for that man every single day," former Kansas City Chiefs star Deron Cherry — one of Stewart's elves — says. "There's a lot of people praying for him."

© 2006 The Associated Press.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Secret Santa Reveals Himself: He's a Native Mississippian!

The man who has been Secret Santa since 1979 appeared on the NBC 'Today' show this morning. He said that one or more journalists were about to reveal his true identity, and that he and his family decided that it would be best if he told his story himself. The article below traces his story back to 1979, but his origins as Secret Santa actually go back to an experience he had at the Dixie Diner in Houston, Mississippi in 1971.

In this day of so many self-absorbed people, isn't it reassuring to know that there are still selfless, big-hearted individuals like Larry Stewart?

Secret Santa reveals himself
Missouri benefactor facing cancer, mounting bills
By Maria Sudekum Fisher, Associated Press | November 19, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money.

He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret Santa has been handing out $100 bills, sometimes two or three at a time, to people in thrift stores, diners, and parking lots.

So far, he's anonymously given out about $1.3 million. It's been a long-held holiday mystery: Who is Secret Santa?

But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random kindness, Secret Santa has decided it's time to reveal his identity.

He is Larry Stewart, a 58-year-old businessman from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

His holiday giving started in December 1979 when he was nursing his wounds at a drive-in restaurant after getting fired. It was the second year in a row he had been fired the week before Christmas.

"It was cold, and this car hop didn't have on a very big jacket, and I thought to myself: 'I think I got it bad. She's out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,' " he said.

He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change. "And suddenly I saw her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks. She said, 'Sir, you have no idea what this means to me.' "

Stewart went to the bank that day and took out $200, then drove around looking for people who could use a lift. That was his Christmas present to himself. He's hit the streets each December since.

While Stewart has also given money to other community causes in Kansas City and his hometown of Bruce, Mississippi, he offers the simple gifts of cash because it's something people don't have to "beg for, get in line for, or apply for."

That was a feeling he came to know in the early 70s when he was living out of his yellow Datsun 510. Hungry and tired, Stewart mustered the nerve to approach a woman at a church and ask for help.

The woman told him the person who could help was gone for the day, and Stewart would have to come back the next day.

"As I turned around, I knew I would never do that again," Stewart said.

Over the years, Stewart's giving as Secret Santa grew. He started a Web site. He allowed the news media to tag along, mostly because he wanted to hear about the people who received the money. Reporters had to agree to guard his identity and not name his company, which he still does not want revealed.

His entourage grew over the years, and he began traveling with special elves. People like the late Negro Leagues icon Buck O'Neil, who handed out hugs while Stewart doled out $100 bills. NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus will join Stewart this year in Chicago when Stewart hands out $100 bills in honor of O'Neil, the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues.

They'll give out $100,000 between Chicago and Kansas City. Four Secret Santas whom Stewart trained will hand out an additional $65,000.

Doctors told Stewart in April that he had cancer of the esophagus and that it had spread to his liver. He has been lucky, he said, to get into a clinical trial at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But the aggressive chemotherapy has stripped away his appetite and energy. He's lost about 100 pounds but has held onto his white hair.

The treatment costs more than $16,000 a month, not including the cost of traveling to Houston every two weeks and staying there for five or six days. His insurance company won't cover the cost, which has left him concerned about his finances and his family.

Now his mission is bigger than handing out $100 bills. Stewart wants to speak to community groups about his devotion to kindness and to inspire others to donate their time and money.

"That's what we're here for," he says. "To help other people out."

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company